Monday, 3 February 2014

The Cutting Edge of Gardening

Red dogwood
Just sticks poked into a pot, or a future forest?
The gardening industry must be rubbing their hands in glee. With just a bit of expert knowledge, the sort that every decent gardener of yesteryear would have, just a few plants can be reproduced many times over. Imagine if you put £1000 in a bank with the knowledge that in a couple of year's time it would repay you tenfold at least.
Well, in gardening terms, you just cut a little bit off one of your plants - in fact you do this anyway every time you prune or cut a hedge - but instead of throwing all the cuttings away, you plonk them into a pot or directly into the soil and wait. With a little patience, hey presto! You have many new plants. (OK, it's a bit more technical than that, but not a lot).
Most people, myself included, have missed out on this trick. They either lack the knowledge or lack the patience to wait a couple of years. Or both. They prefer to spend out now and have the instant gratification of a plant they can take home and place straight into their garden scheme.

However, all my gardening and land management here on the farm is on a somewhat bigger scale than I have been used to. If I purchased every plant fully grown, I'd have a choice between an empty garden or an empty bank balance!
The demonstration of soft fruit propagation which Steve gave at the last Veg Growers group has, however, sparked me into action. I don't really know what I'm doing. I try to teach myself on the internet to the point when I'm feeling a little confused, then I just have a go.

I know from doing conservation work in the past that if you cut a willow and poke it in the ground, chances are it'll grow. This has been used as a method for stabilising river banks. I know that there's a difference between hardwood cuttings and softwood cuttings. I know that different techniques are better for different plants, and that different techniques need to be applied at different times of the year to match in with the plant's growing habits. And that's about it...except that a rainy afternoon spent preparing cuttings in the polytunnel costs nothing, keeps me out of harm's way and, with a bit of luck, may yield many, many new plants for the future.

Laurels by the lorryload
and a little Wild Privet too
So, here is the product of last Sunday's pottering.

Budding buddleias
Rosa Rugosa - VERY spiky!
Flaming willow
The polytunnel was indeed a wise workplace to choose, as we had a belter of a storm circling around for much of the time, thunderclaps, lightning forks and hail by the bucketload. It certainly sounded loud in the polytunnel.
Anyway, all I need to do now is sit back until late autumn and hope that some of them have rooted. They will go outside in the spring and I'll dig the pots in a little so they don't dry up.

I reckon there's something to be said for the ways of the old gardeners. Looking back could well be the way forward.

Meanwhile, here's a peek at the soft fruit cuttings I took the weekend before. They've gone straight into the ground outside, though not without a little luxury. They have the only carpeted beds for miles around!

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